Going into Sunday’s highly-anticipated Divisional Round playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers rookie quarterback Brock Purdy, the last overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, has performed admirably in place of the injured Jimmy Garoppolo.
Is Brock Purdy Ready For Dallas Cowboys Defense?
So Far, Purdy Good
Since Garoppolo hurt his foot during a Week 13 game against the Dolphins, Brock Purdy has guided the 49ers to an undefeated 6-0 record, including a playoff win against their divisional rival Seahawks. While the 49ers offense is loaded with elite players at the skill positions, such as running back Christian McCaffrey, tight end George Kittle, wide receiver Deebo Samuel, and fullback Kyle Juszczyk, Purdy has been instrumental in their success.
Throughout his time as the starter, Brock Purdy has shown tremendous poise, accuracy, and decision-making. In fact, over their last 3 games, Purdy has led the 49ers to score nearly 38.7 points per game, the best mark in the NFL during that time.
However, with the 49ers in prime contention to make the Super Bowl, there have been questions about how Purdy will perform as they advance further in the playoffs and play stronger opponents. The Cowboys, led by All-Pro edge rusher Micah Parsons and a fearsome pass rush, will be a formidable test for Purdy and the 49ers offense.
How the Cowboys Can Limit Brock Purdy, 49ers Offense
Led by Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn, a prime candidate to become a head coach elsewhere next season, the Cowboys boast an elite defense that ranks 1st in turnovers forced and 3rd in sacks. Furthermore, according to TruMedia, the Cowboys lead the league in pressure rate with 43.2%.
The Cowboys defensive front will ultimately present a significant challenge for Brock Purdy and a 49ers offensive line that has rebounded after a sluggish start to the season. Thus, it is imperative that the line creates lanes for the team to effectively run the ball and neutralize the pass rush.
Moreover, it is crucial that the Cowboys are able to capitalize on any of Purdy’s turnover-worthy throws. In the 1st half against the Seahawks last week, Purdy struggled with accuracy as many of his passes were off-target and susceptible to being intercepted.
According to CBS Sports, in the Wild Card game against the Seahawks, Purdy was just 9 of 20 for 153 yards and a 71.5 passer rating when his targets didn’t get 5-plus yards of separation. However, he was 9 of 10 for 179 yards and three touchdowns when a receiver had a separation of 5-plus yards.
As such, if the Cowboys continue to deploy their aggressive coverage scheme, then they are likely to force more incompletions and possibly create turnovers to put their offense in a more advantageous position.
Yet, similar to Seattle last week, implementing this strategy will likely leave them susceptible to big plays, a strength of the 49ers with the embarrassment of riches they possess on offense.
Why the Cowboys Defense Will Fail to Stop the 49ers Offense
Although the Cowboys have an elite pass rush near the top of the league in sacks, the overall defense does not fare as well when they blitz. According to Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders, the Cowboys defense ranks 23rd in DVOA when they blitz as compared to 1st in the league when they do not blitz.
While the Cowboys would be wise to pressure Brock Purdy without blitzing, this will likely give the loaded arsenal of weapons surrounding him more time to create separation.
Furthermore, this will inevitably force the Cowboys to use more stunts along the defensive line in order to create more pressure, something that they do more than any defense in the NFL. However, the 49ers offensive line has been one of the best on pass-blocking plays where the defense stunts.
Lastly, Brock Purdy will once again likely be put in a position to succeed thanks to the brilliance of his Head Coach and playcaller Kyle Shanahan. This will likely put Purdy and the 49ers at an advantage considering Shanahan’s familiarity with the type of scheme Quinn likes to run in addition to his in-game tendencies.
While the same can be said of Quinn’s familiarity with Shanahan, I suspect Shanahan and the 49ers will have the advantage considering they have the stronger personnel. As such, Purdy and Shanahan will be more likely to exploit the 1 on 1 matchup they can create with McCaffrey, Kittle, Samuel, and emerging wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk.
What’s going to happen on Sunday?
With the advantages the 49ers possess at the skill positions and through the play-calling matchup, the onus will be on Brock Purdy to play within the offense, limit his mistakes and turnover-worthy throws, and put the ball in the hands of his playmakers.
Given that the 49ers matchup well against the strengths of the Cowboys menacing defensive front, I suspect that the 49ers will win handily on Sunday, and that the magical run from Purdy will continue through the NFC Championship game.
Embed from Getty Images